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Suit System:F
Recommended Name:  the North-German pattern, reflecting its main area of use.

Formerly labelled F-1.511 and XP3 (XP for eXpatriate Paris). The familiar name 'Berliner' arose from a misunderstanding of a legend used by the Stralsund combine referring to a finishing process patented in 1904 by the Berliner Spielkarten Fabrik Eduard Büttner & Co., whose business and chromolitho plates they took over in 1907. Cards from those plates were marketed as 'Berliner Spielkarten' (Berlin playing-cards), later as 'Norddeutsches Bild' (North-German pattern). Modern packaging is often marked 'Französisches Bild' (French pattern) to distinguish the contents from German-suited patterns.


The pattern seems to have emerged fully-fledged in Stralsund before 1856. The chief differences from the parent 'Hamburg' pattern are that the Queens are uncrowned ladies wearing costumes and hair-styles of the 1840s (as they still do), and that KD usually wears a laurel wreath under his crown in memory of his origin as Caesar. From Stralsund the pattern quickly spread to other makers in Germany and elsewhere, and is still widely produced today.

A precursor, with the laurel wreath, but with crowned Queens wearing hairstyles of the 1820s, was printed by Baumgärtner in Berlin c.1825 called 'Feinste Neue Leipziger Whistkarte' by Industrie Comptoir, Leipzig. The latter also printed a design with the same Kings and Jacks but with different Queens, under the name '2. Hamburger Karte, in Holz, sehr fein.'

Characteristic features

Visually, the pattern is unmistakable, but a verbal description would differ very little from that of the 'Hamburg' pattern [IPCS #58]. In particular it retains the distinctive combination of KS holding the top of his harp and the KC the round top of a shield. The harp held by KS is usually a rather unlikely shape, and sometimes has no strings. The laurel wreath worn by KD is a unique feature, but has sometimes been omitted, notably in the version shared by Bürgers of Cologne and Müller of Schaffhausen. Nowadays all the Kings wear high-arched crowns, but earlier examples do not show this feature consistently. The Queens' flowers are traditional, except that QD's carnation becomes a lily. JH has his band free at chest-level, limp-wristed or pointing the index-finger, or resting on a sword-hilt. In recent decades, manufacturers in Germany and other countries have introduced deliberate variations in order to make their own version distinctive. Many versions, especially early ones, have a narrow horizontal bar dividing the courts. Versions with spliced (instead of firmly divided) courts have been made by Alf Cooke for Scandinavia, and for/in Finland.


King (König) Queen (Dame) Jack (Bube) and numerals. Usually 32 cards (for Skat) or 52. Usually plain aces.

Some makers

German makers are too numerous to mention: a wide selection is represented in the Cary collection catalogue (Yale, 1981) and in the exhibition catalogue Bube Dame König (Berlin, 1982) which has a useful introduction to this pattern. The maker's name usually appears on JC. Outside Germany, makers have included Piatnik (Vienna); Van Genechten, and Carta Mundi (Turnhout); Handa (Copenhagen); Litografia União (Portugal); Parksons (Bombay); Dal Negro (Treviso); Fournier (Vitoria); Nordisk Papirvareindustri (Viby-Jylland); Speelkaarten Nederland (Amsterdam). For further names see All Cards on the Table (Leinfelden, 1990) under No. 143.

Sources of Information

(In addition to those cited above)
BERLINER SPIELKARTEN (catalogue): Berlin, 1984.
SHOULD WE PERPETUATE ERRORS? Wolfgang Suma IN The Playing-Card, XXIV/5, 1996.

The North-German Pattern

Illustration of North-German pattern (jpg 933 x 1066)
Top three rows: Eduard Büttner & Co., Berlin 1895-1907;
row 4: C.L. Wüst, Frankfurt a/M, 1912-1919 tax stamp;
rows 5 & 6: F.A. Lattmann, Goslar 1919-23 tax stamp. (All cards collection John Berry).

The International Playing-Card Society 7/1996 JB

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